Don’t Dismiss the Power of the Pantsuit

love her love her not the hillary paradox, hillary clinton paradox

Boys seemed to trudge along through all of this in their same Levis, lucky bastards. They were blissfully free of the burden of daily decisions about how to present, adorn or conceal their bodies. They had fewer distracting options, and none of those options seemed to limit what they did, whereas all of mine limited my activities, and all of mine seemed to define how feminine I was or wasn’t, and how successful I was at understanding social and sexual politics.

Now that Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox is officially out in the book stores and online, and since many of the essayists are regular contributors here at The Broad Side, we thought we’d give our readers little bites of the essays through the month of November. If you like what you’re reading here from your favorite – or new- writers, please consider supporting us by purchasing a copy. Believe us, whether you ‘love Hillary or love her not’, there is plenty of thoughtful, fun and interesting writing here you won’t want to miss.

Today, an appetizer from Deb Rox’s essay, “Worshipping the Semiotic Brilliance of  Hillary’s Pantsuits”:

Hillary Clinton is my fashion icon. She is my Chanel, my New York Fashion Week, my WWD, my Anna Wintour, my Dolly Parton in a coat of many colors. I love her pantsuits. I love all of them, especially the black Oscar de la Renta ones with their sharp jacket lines. But more importantly than the pantsuits themselves, I love what they mean. Hillary has divined Buddha-level truths that are revealed in how she dresses, and I want everyone to worship at the altar of her glorious pantsuit world order.

I know the entire world does not join me in this view, and while I wish everyone would appreciate the gorgeousness of the matching two-piece, I’m absolutely certain Hillary doesn’t care. That’s the point, hard won and victorious, and I’m deeply inspired by it. We all could learn a few things from the powerful pantsuit.

Women my age have always needed Hillary, or at least I did. My mother’s generation believed in the power of pearls and husbands, so I was more or less on my own to figure out what to wear and how to cope with obvious double standards and sexist rules.

I sauntered through the best sartorial year of my life when I was 12-years-old, probably because it was my last shot at not being judged for dressing like a boy. I divined a uniform of sorts for daily wear: jeans and tees, except on Thursdays when I wore my beloved Girl Scouts uniform and power-badge-boasting sash. My only concern was maximizing wears of my favorite shirt, which sported a shiny, red-white-and-blue, groovy-fonted, ironed-on VOTE emblem in honor of the Bicentennial election — because the Bicentennial was cool and Jimmy Carter was my man. My tees were styling every day, but on VOTE days my swagger was imbued with purpose and shine.

All of that changed the very next year when life became a complexity of hormones, gender performance, an acute awareness of class struggles and new body insecurities that played out in the typical oppressive theater of a young woman’s closet. Every morning was consumed by the question of what to wear, with option after option tried on, critiqued in a cruel fairytale mirror, and discarded into a pile that might as well have been fiery toxic garbage.

Boys seemed to trudge along through all of this in their same Levis, lucky bastards. They were blissfully free of the burden of daily decisions about how to present, adorn or conceal their bodies. They had fewer distracting options, and none of those options seemed to limit what they did, whereas all of mine limited my activities, and all of mine seemed to define how feminine I was or wasn’t, and how successful I was at understanding social and sexual politics.

I’ve always felt most inspired by, most comforted by, the image of our leaders as workers. I live for the mythos of rolling up sleeves and getting things done. Give me a stump speech in a parking lot over a State of the Union any day. I need that part of the American Dream, the dreamy part, the part where we set sights high and then grab a pickaxe or a pen and begin to build.

Our leaders express that in their rolled up sleeves, and they show that in their power suits, too. Suits, with their tailored pockets and their boxy shoulders and sturdy fabric might not be coal mine attire, but they connote work that is powerful in other ways. Suits are modern armor, and in their monochromatic simplicity and uniformity they remind wearers that they are all steely arms of the same machine. When you are wearing a suit, first you walk across a tarmac or a hallway in Congress to sign things, the ink of your pen matching the dark threads of your jacket, and then you remove that jacket, roll up your sleeves, and get to it.

But that “you” used to always be a man. A woman in a suit was a poseur: it was called “menswear chic” so that we always remembered we were borrowing “his” power.

Image via The Daily Beast

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Love Her, Love Her Not by Joanne Bamberger

Love Her, Love Her Not

by Joanne Bamberger

Giveaway ends November 15, 2015.

See the giveaway details
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